By Pinky Khoabane
Miner’s lung with silicosis & tuberculosis
WITH the vast shares held by some members of the ANC ruling party in mining houses, will the advice by Parliament’s Mineral Resources Committee for the Department of Mineral Resources to get involved in the silicosis class action case really materialise?
Thirty-thousand (30,000) former miners are suing 82 mines for compensation for failing to protect them against lung diseases, according to a statement released by the Committee yesterday, following a briefing by lawyers representing ex-mine workers suffering from lung diseases and silicosis. There’s another suit against the companies for their failure to protect the workers from conditions that led them to contracting tuberculosis (TB). Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling fine dust.
The violation of health and safety standards in South African mines has been described as ‘the world’s biggest, longest running industrial disaster; dwarfing Chernobyl’.
The lawsuit includes current and former miners who contracted the disease since 1965 and dependants of the ones who lost their lives. Those of us who lived in neighbouring countries like Lesotho know of the thousands of miners who’ve returned home with nothing else but TB and left to die as a result of the poor health infrastructure in those countries. Their families, often dependent solely on the mineworker, are left completely destitute and live in abject poverty.
GroundUp has written extensively on the case https://www.groundup.org.za/silicosis-court-case/. There have been ongoing talks of an out-of-court settlement between the miners’ lawyers and some mining companies but a conclusion is still to materialise. The companies involved include Anglo American plc, AngloGold Ashanti; Gold Fields; Harmony; and Sibanye Gold. In today’s reports, lawyers for the miners have confirmed that six of the firms being sued are holding settlement talks with the workers.
The Chairperson of the Minerals & Resources Committee, Sahlulele Luzipo, said although he understood the seriousness of the case, he underestimated its complexity. “It is concerning that political guidance is missing and this case has been dragging on for four years now. The reality is that people will eventually complain to Parliament when things go wrong,” Luzipo said. In addition, the Committee said it had invited the Department to present it’s role in the case thus far.
The real question is how and whether this Department can hold mining houses to account and push them towards a settlement. As we know, businesses that benefited from apartheid and most were culpable by virtue of operating in a racially structured economy, have hardly been held to account let alone pay towards restitution. The much touted wealth tax proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) never materialised but as we showed here two days ago, many of these companies have become the biggest beneficiaries of the democratic dispensation with many of them having on their boards and shareholding some very powerful and politically connected individuals. http://uncensoredopinion.co.za/companies-propped-apartheid-complicity-anc-revolutionaries-apartheid-amnesia/